Sacramento Valley among areas predicted for high wildfire risk in July, report warns

A national report forecasting potential for wildfire activity warns that recent weather conditions have created higher-than-normal fire potential for the Sacramento Valley and other parts of Northern California, expected from July through at least October.

The predictions come via the latest monthly wildland fire potential outlook report, released Monday by the National Interagency Fire Center.

Maps and summaries for 10 different geographic areas indicate that fuel sources and weather conditions will be more conducive to significant wildland fires than normal for the month of July across a large swath of Northern California, Hawaii, most of Alaska, and portions of Oregon, Washington, Nevada and southern Arizona.

“The fuel beds (in California) have become more continuous than what is typically seen,” the report’s executive summary says. “When the hot, dry, and windy patterns develop during the middle to late summer months, the large fire potential in these areas will elevate.”

Northern California’s biggest areas of concern include the northern Sacramento Valley, foothills and the Bay Area, the interagency report continues, due to “dead and down fuel load” and “heavy new brush growth” following a very rainy May and a very dry June.

National Interagency Fire Center

The regions marked red on the interagency fire center’s maps for July, August, September and October include the areas burned in the 2017 North Bay wine country fires; the summer 2018 Carr Fire that burned nearly 230,000 acres in Shasta and Trinity counties, spreading into the city of Redding; and the November 2018 Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history, which killed 85 people.

Meanwhile, slightly below normal wildland fire potential is predicted for the northern Sierra above 6,000 feet, and the rest of Northern California is forecast for a normal level of significant fire potential from July through October.

The West Coast is currently experiencing a “very weak” El Niño system. Monday’s report says the associated weather flow could lead to fewer lightning days than in an average summer for Northern California and Hawaii, which could help ward off some potential wildfires.

The geographic areas of greatest concern nationwide as of early July are Alaska, Washington and southern Arizona. Alaska experienced a “slow entry” into fire season, the report says.

Western portions of Oregon and Washington are also at high risk this summer, amid moderate to severe drought conditions.

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Michael McGough anchors The Sacramento Bee’s breaking news reporting team, covering public safety and other local stories. A Sacramento native and lifelong capital resident, he interned at The Bee while attending Sacramento State, where he earned a degree in journalism.